I wonder, however, if anyone would really be interested. Yeah, I’m fishing for comments… (Jay O’Connell, author)
I’ve been thinking about a particular word lately. “Cooperation.” Cooperation is certainly key in getting us through these current days of social isolation and economic hardship. Cooperation will still be vital in the coming years, as we are forced to adapt to the many cultural changes that will ensue.
Co-Operation then and now
Cooperation is sometimes hard. It isn’t always the first thing human nature lands on. We’ve all heard of the fight-or-flight response to danger. It is an animal instinct we will never completely evolve beyond. But ultimately, we all yearn for cooperation, as that is the thing that makes us human. Making Cooperation a Dream
Cooperation is our higher selves transcending animal instinct. Only cooperation can lead us to being a superior species, to finding our better angels. It is, therefore, key to our success as a society. But sadly, it is sometimes only a dream.
There have been times in history when that dream has failed. And so, I’ve been thinking about cooperation. Which leads to an earlier contemplation on the inherent difficulties the dream of cooperation presents. Making C
It’s been more than 20 years since Co-Operative Dreams: A History of the Kaweah Colony was published. And while there have been attempts to get the book, which tells not only the story of the ill-fated Kaweah Colony but also the establishment of Sequoia National Park, reissued by university presses or niche publishing houses, it has been out of print for more than a decade.
It has been suggested that it be published as an e-book, or even as an audiobook, but that has heretofore not been accomplished. To read the book, one either has to check it out from a public library or be lucky enough to find a used copy online.
What lies in store for Co-Operative Dreams? Before any plans on the book’s future are considered, I thought a look back at how the book came to be might be in order.
I’m not sure when I became so interested in (okay, obsessed with) the Kaweah Colony, a bunch of socialists (okay, old-timey hippies) up North Fork way back in the 1880s. I never really studied history in college. I was a Lit major / Drama nerd. Making Cooperation a Dream
I really only got interested in history listening to Irish rebel ballads and tipping pints (numerous pints) of Guinness across Ireland back in the ’80s (the 1980s!). No history I’d ever heard about was as dramatic, romantic, exciting, and entertaining as Irish history. While perhaps due to the rebel songs and Guinness, I do remember thinking back then that I wish there were stories that cool from history a little closer to home.
Kaweah, it turns out, was a lot closer to home. In 1995, I published a magazine article entitled “Kaweah! A Dream’s Demise” in The Californians, a now-defunct magazine of California history. It was that same year that John and Sarah bought the Sequoia Sentinel and changed the name to The Kaweah Commonwealth. I counseled against rechristening it as such. Even though I have described myself as philosophically “slightly left of Karl Marx,” I thought the name might have too Marxist a connotation for local readership.
For the first several years of the new Kaweah Commonwealth, I wrote a history column that focused on the Kaweah Colony. I started giving talks about the Colony, and enlisted the help of local thespians, Steve and Elizabeth LaMar, for some presentations. I even got Huell Howser interested in doing a segment on Kaweah for California’s Gold, but at the last minute we had to postpone.
At one point, the local historical society approached me about turning the column (we did nearly 100 “Colony Corner” installments just on the Colony) into a book as a fundraiser. Intrigued, I did some marketing analysis and wrote up a proposed budget to produce a book. I think the number was a little high and followed by more zeroes than they had anticipated. But with the idea planted, I pressed on as a solo endeavor. Making Cooperation a Dream
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Birth of a book
Looking back, I only went a couple thousand dollars over budget, but was able to produce the book I’d envisioned and launch a small publishing company, Raven River Press. Co-Operative Dreams, which debuted in late 1999, did a little better than I expected. Making Cooperation a Dream
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I was fortunate to get academic traction and strong library sales, thanks to some positive scholarly reviews. I also received ample regional support from local retailers, historical societies, and especially the Sequoia Natural History Association (present-day Sequoia Parks Conservancy), where it sold consistently for several years. Ultimately, the project broke even. Barely. Making Cooperation a Dream
Now long “out of print,” I have literally only two copies in my possession, and one of those has crayon scribbles all over it (thanks J.P.). I’ve been asked about a second printing. No. That, I’m sure, would lose money. I’ve no interest in losing money. But I also have no misconceptions about making any money on the book (unless someone out there wants to option the movie rights).
I only want people to have an opportunity to read it. I suspect in the years since Co-Operative Dreams fell out of print, there could be people new to Three Rivers curious about what happened up North Fork back in the old days.
There might be recent transplants or visitors interested to learn just how Sequoia National Park came to be and the corporation that surprisingly had a hand in its creation. Maybe those folks are even willing to indulge me at my most book-length, long-windedness.
Plans are now underway to possibly serialize Co-Operative Dreams in 3 Rivers News (indeed, as the book about the 19 century was born in the pages of The Kaweah Commonwealth in the 20th century, a rebirth online in 3 Rivers News in the 21st century seems fitting). And maybe I’ll publish it as an e-book on Amazon.
I wonder, however, if anyone would really be interested. Yeah, I’m fishing for comments! Can I get a little cooperation out there?
Read these other 3R News series by Jay O’Connell:
Other books by Jay O’Connell and Raven River Press: